By: Michael Clifford, L.Ac.
Former Acupuncturist at Peaceful Spirit Massage and Wellness Centers
Like all branches of Chinese medicine, traditional gynecology has a long history; the earliest records of gynecological medical writings come from the Shang dynasty (1500-1000 BCE).
As with all forms of TCM, the diagnosis guides the treatment. The intake process for an initial treatment is quite comprehensive. The questions have to be quite specific because the differences can be subtle, but once recognized can become significant.
The way that a practitioner of TCM makes a diagnosis is fundamentally different from the way our Western Allopathic counterparts make their diagnosis. Both are viable, valuable, and accurate; however, each system of medicine sees the body in a fundamentally different way.
Through the lens of Chinese Medicine health is seen as a reflection of "Harmony" in one's internal and external being-ness. Diagnosis in TCM is based on "Patterns of Dis-Harmony”. This is a way of looking at a patient's entire life, their energy levels, sleep patterns, digestive system, their ability, or inability to deal with stress, their experience of pain, headaches, etc. This information is gathered from the patient in a series of questions to allow the practitioner to formulate a "picture" or "pattern" that describes the patient. (It is common for a patient to feel that her/his acupuncturist knows him or her better than their physician does.)
The practitioner then feels the patients pulses in the radial artery feeling a ‘quality' to describe the pulse. There are six classic pulse locations, each with three depths with a variety of qualities about them.
Finally, the practitioner will look at the patients tongue and note the color of the tongue body, the coating, and the amount of moisture and the overall shape of the tongue. All of this information is compiled into making the diagnosis. In TCM our diagnosis is called a "pattern of dis-harmony" in allopathic medicine it is called a disease. The TCM treatment plan is designed to resolve the dis-harmony, though that may take many steps or forms. In TCM, it is said: "One disease may have many treatments; one treatment may treat many diseases”. This is because we are focused on treating the underlying pattern of dis-harmony. As a quick example, a woman may have painful periods, yet in TCM, there are eight separate conditions that manifest as ‘painful periods.' Each one will have a slightly, or even completely different treatment protocol.
Please consider this information in the following discussion of imbalance in gynecology.
I also feel the need to address the gender issue. The most ‘invasive' part of an acupuncture treatment is the process of questioning the patient and feeling the pulses. When working with a woman experiencing menstrual disorders the questions are specific and comprehensive. Through this process, an acupuncturist does not have to give ‘exams' (I refer any patient that may need a pelvic exam to a local female Naturopathic Doctor I trust.) The issue of patient comfort and safety is a paramount part of the treatment.
Even though there are up to eight separate patterns, the primary patterns of imbalance can be loosely grouped into two categories: Stagnation/Excess, and or Deficiency. After this primary diagnosis, a secondary diagnosis of Heat or Cold may become apparent.
Pain and or disease are understood to be the result of the energy, or “qi” not flowing correctly in the body. Whether one is using acupuncture, herbology or bodywork the treatment is designed to get the qi flowing. Exercise is a great way to do this, but not the only way.
When there is a deficiency, it will be addressed through herbs and dietary recommendations.
TCM has a very powerful effect of helping the body return to its own normal balance. This medical paradigm has a 3-5,000 year history of clinically proven effectiveness. Yes, there are conditions that do not respond to TCM, yet if these same conditions were treated much earlier in their history of imbalance there is a very high probability that the ‘dis-ease’ would not have developed.
No matter what condition one is being treated for the treatment protocol is safe, non-invasive, and EFFECTIVE. If you, or anyone you know, is having trouble in your menstrual cycle please feel free to contact Peaceful Spirit Massage & Wellness Centers at 320.1953 and inquire about acupuncture as a treatment option.
In closing, I would encourage you to consider TCM as a viable, effective form of treating women’s disorders.